shared from and with BibleTexts.com users
1. Did Jesus ever oppose the male-dominated patriarchal mindset of his culture?
2. Were women or men disciples the first to see Jesus after the resurrection?
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
the gospels can you find Jesus challenging the male-dominated patriarchal
mindset of his culture?
One example of Jesus challenging male-dominated inequality is in his teaching on divorce, which applied equally to both the husband and the wife..
A wife must not leave her husband; but if she does, she must remain single or else be reconciled to her husband; and a husband must not divorce his wife.(1Co 7:10,11, TEV. This is Jesus' "command," which Paul quoted sometime between 52 and 54 A.D.)
In the beginning, at the time of creation, 'God made them male and female,' as the scripture says. 'And for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one.' So they are no longer two, but one. Man must not separate, then, what God has joined together." When they went back into the house, the disciples asked Jesus about this matter. He said to them, "A man who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against his wife. In the same way, a woman who divorces her husband and marries another man commits adultery." (Mar 10:6-12, TEV. This was included in the earliest canonical gospel, which was written sometime around 70 A.D.)
For a more complete exploration of early Christian teachings on divorce, see:
Jesus' socially disturbing parables also illustrate his challenge to men as the only ones having power or deserving a role as an example. See the parable of the leaven (Mat 13:33, Luk 13:20-21, Thomas 96), the parable of the lost coin (Luk 15:8-9), and the commentaries on them at http://www.bibletexts.com/texts/parables.htm#leaven and http://www.bibletexts.com/texts/parables.htm#lost-coin.
That Jesus talked freely with woman -- even a Samaritan woman (!) -- was another social/religious taboo that Jesus broke. Jesus is pictured as unaffected by such restrictions.
When Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luk 17:20,21, Thomas 3:1-3, Thomas 113, Thomas 51:2, Gospel of Mary 4:4-5, Dialog of the Savior 9:3), the overall message of his words and his life would indicate that he was not limiting how much of that kingdom was present in his hearers -- whether male or female.
These are just a few illustrations that immediately came to mind.
Hello, Bob, this is excellent ... and yet, we must face the fact that, after spending one entire night in prayer (Luke 6:12), Jesus still selected 12 males to be his "apostles" ... what do you make of that?
The gospel reports about Jesus spending one entire night in prayer (Luke 6:12) and then selecting 12 males to be his "apostles" are very interesting indeed. What is additionally interesting is that in the earliest record of the crucifixion and resurrection (Paul's account in 1Co 15:3-7, which Paul "had received"), there is mention of "the twelve." In fact Paul seems to be saying that according to what he had been told (by James, Peter, and/or John in Jerusalem?), Cephas (Peter) was the first to see the risen Christ. Then the twelve saw him. Then five hundred "brethren" saw him. Then James. Then Paul.
Were all four gospels completely wrong in saying that women were the first to encounter evidence of Jesus' resurrection? Three of the gospels, Matthew (Mat 28:9-10), Mark (Mar 16:9-11), and John (Joh 20:14-18) describe women (always including Mary Magdalene) as the first to see and speak with the risen Jesus. Luke simply says that the women (again, including Mary Magdalene) were the first to be told (by two men/angels) that Jesus had risen. All four of these gospel accounts are not synoptic but clearly are from different sources.
Had the report that Paul "received" been filtered by Peter or someone else to eliminate all mention of the women that were really the first to see Jesus? Why would such filtering take place? Was it because during the actual ministry of Jesus those women had real clout and that now -- without Jesus around -- he/they could recapture the more culturally traditional male authority? Did Peter revert back to his male-dominant Jewish ways, just as in Antioch he had reverted to his don't-eat-with-Gentiles ways? For more on this, see http://www.bibletexts.com/qa/qa078.htm#2.
I do not have definitive answers for any of these questions, but I do have serious concerns about how accurately the role of women during Jesus' ministry was reported and "received" by the church in the first 2 or 3 decades after Jesus' crucifixion. If filtering did take place, Paul may have been unaware of it. He may have just reported what he had been told. Paul, of course, was really a champion for women's active roles in the early church. For more on Paul's advocacy of women, see http://www.bibletexts.com/women.htm; whereas, James and Peter showed some strong Jewish tendancies (see Gal 2:1-14).
Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer